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The Treasure In Your Trash

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I confess… I’m not a packrat by nature, despite what my office looks like. My mother-in-law and husband, however, have taken saving things for later use to a high art form, hoarding items that I would have long ago thrown away. And sure enough, every time I entice that man to toss something, he comes up with a use for it two days later.

We’re not going to get into the pros and cons of hanging onto stuff until it becomes an addiction or illness like the television show Hoarders. We’re not going to go that far in making use of those items we normally toss! But here are a few things that you may decide to hold onto.


These babies aren’t just to use for starting fires in the heater or fireplace. They have a multitude of uses. For instance, you can make seed starting pots out of them to use in starting your vegetable seeds indoors so the plants are ready the minute planting season is here.

Use newspapers and a water/vinegar solution to clean your windows and mirrors instead of paper towels. You’ll have clean windows without all the exasperating streaks. However, your previous store-bought cleaning solution may have left a thin, waxy layer on your windows that won’t be easily removed, and you may be tempted to go back to regular window-cleaning products. Instead, use the following solution: 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar, and up to 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap or detergent in a spray bottle. This will cut through any waxy residue left over from commercial products.


Jars that you accumulate from store products like jellies, peanut butter, and mayonnaise can be put to good use. Along with their regular uses for storing stuff like nuts and bolts, I also use them to store my garden seed for the next year. I reuse jars for storing my own dehydrated herbs and onions, as well as dehydrated fruits, vegetables, and meat. I have cut the spout end out of a 2-liter bottle to use as a bonnet over my hand sprayer so I can direct my solution where it’s needed without worrying about it getting airborne. (I have bees, so I have to be careful with any pesticide I use in my garden, even organic ones.)

Dryer Lint

You know that lint you toss from the dryer after every load? Well, don’t. Save it! When used with paper egg cartons, some sawdust, and paraffin wax, you have the perfect fire starter. Simply fill each section with lint and sawdust, then pour the melted wax to seal each section. After it hardens and cools, cut each section apart, fold the ends over the top, and store in a plastic bag until needed. If you have trouble finding cardboard egg cartons, you can get them from either Tractor Supply for around 49 cents each.


Have you recently replaced some windows in your home or know about a remodeling job going on somewhere in your neighborhood? Use those windows to make a mini-greenhouse or cold frame. You can also use them to fashion an outdoor solar dehydrator. There are tons of plans available online or you can engineer your own based on the used windows you have available. If you have the “Tim the Toolman Taylor” syndrome and can’t resist going for size, used sliding glass doors are also excellent for fashioning a greenhouse or solar dehydrator.

Egg Shells

Don’t toss these wonderful calcium-rich products into the trash! Sprinkle crushed eggshells directly into your garden to add calcium to the soil or make sure they go into your compost pile. But before you throw them away, use eggshell halves as seed pots! Make a hole in the bottom of the shell, fill with potting mixture, and sow your seeds. When it comes time to transplant the seedling, squeeze the shell to crack it, then plant shell and all. The roots will push through the cracks and the shell will decompose naturally.

You can also use crushed eggshells to repel pests in the garden. A sprinkling of crushed eggshells around your plants will repel cutworms and discourage slugs as well.

Coffee Grounds

You can save your used coffee grounds for mixing into the soil in your garden to add nutrients or toss them into your compost bin. Coffee grounds also make an excellent exfoliator. If you’ve been digging in the dirt or just have chapped hands, mix used coffee grounds in with a pump of hand soap and voila!… smooth, clean hands!

Coffee Cans

Forget buying that counter composting crock for your kitchen counter. A used coffee can with a nice lid works just as well. I also use them for my egg shells that I save for my garden. After the can is full (I crush them down to pack in as many as possible), I stick it in the chest-type freezer for use in the spring.

You can also fashion a handle and attach it to a used coffee can for use as a feed scoop for your animals.

Plastic Containers

You know those plastic boxes that hold meats and different food stuffs at the grocery store? Reuse those! The ones with lids make excellent seed starter containers. Place your filled newspaper seed pots in them, put the lid on, and you have a mini-hothouse without spending money for those plastic trays and peat rounds at the store. Reuse those plastic containers that fruits and some vegetables come in. Store your sprouts (the ones you’ve grown to eat) or the fruit from your fruit trees in them.

There are myriad uses for the things that we accumulate day after day and throw away. As my mother-in-law loves to say, “There’s more in saving than in throwing away.” Remember, there’s treasure in that trash!

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